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Lake Washoe State Park

Lake Washoe is between Reno and Carson City, and the state park was recommended to me by a couple of friends.

It is perfectly quiet, has large sites, no close neighbors, and very few people. The scent of sage dominates, which beats kerosene. During bird migrations this is a good place, but I might be a tad early. Never mind, watching nothing take off or land will be a novel relief.

The air races met my expectations, and satisfied a long-time bug to see them and understand what they were about. I was very lucky to draw a parking spot next to a group that had been attending for 35 years, and enjoyed a party. And readily tolerated my complete ignorance of the event.

One of my observations was that I was witnessing the obsolescence of a technology. The motors on the prop planes were developed in the 1940’s, and while advancements have been made, their complexity will soon be a liability. And as their skilled mechanics die out it will become a tiny part of aviation relegated to curiosity and historical status. Almost identical to steam-driven locomotives, which are still running as attractions, but obsoleted 60 years ago.

The races themselves are run by pilots trained in the military many, many decades ago and went to long careers in the aviation industry. Retired now, their age (and scarcity) elevates them to positions of decision-making. Another way of saying it is that the races are controlled by a bunch of very old white men. To put on a successful popular extravaganza nowadays requires social relevance, radically innovative ideas, and rapid uptake of new traditions. The best extravaganzas are an always-changing event highlighting both the old and new, attracting the older customer as well as the young. [Music is an exception to this rule. Or maybe it proves the rule.]

Everyone agreed that attendance was down, the number of planes and pilots was short, and several races were canceled. “Sequestration” was the cry because the military wasn’t there. Horseshit. The old guys don’t know what aviation is about nowadays. Just this once I’ll compare Reno to Burning Man: At BM the skies are filled constantly with jumpers and balloons and remote-controlled (drones) airplanes doing things unimaginable. The show is always up there as down here. Reno had one jumper, once a day, required to pull his chute at 2500 feet above ground. [A jet crashed two years ago at Reno, safety concerns were addressed, so the jumper had to open his chute early. Old white men.] At BM, jumpers get married below 2500. Stay tuned for the honeymoon someday soon.

Reno does offer speed, and I have to admit by Sunday I was impressed. Comparing to Albuquerque, speed isn’t always the only attraction. And the speed is shockingly dramatic on the Columbia by the kite-boarders. The kids at Hood River would laugh at the Reno pilots (You mean you use fuel to fly????).

This old white man wants to see what the kids are doing, and I don’t mean putting on rock concerts, which I think we invented. (Well, I distinctly remember the night back in my college days when I myself created the rock concert. I’ll swear to it.)

I did Reno this year to satisfy an itch, bypassing Burning Man because I knew it was a culture-clash to do both back-to-back. I made the right decision, and I’ll be back at Burning Man next year.

But, those guys running BM are starting to look a like lot me…..

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